Students For Sustainability Conference – 5 steps to unleashing your potential and inspiring change.

What drives changeIMG_1523? Is it something that we should sit back and wait for or do we all have an active role to play in shaping the future? At a recent “Students for Sustainability” (S4S) conference at the University of Western Sydney, this very question was addressed. Four
Federation University students including myself, our sustainability rep Casey Egan, Luke Morris and Emma (Tillie) Schulz were fortunate enough to attend and
each of us benefited greatly from networking with other students and people from around the country who are passionate about ensuring future life on our infinite planet. Attending the event allowed each of us to recognize something we have probably known all along but often forget when contemplating what seem to be impossible world issues like sustainability and climate change.

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What do you get from giving?

It’s Monday morning and I’m just back from a brilliant weekend away on the Gippsland Lakes volunteering at a family camp. I was busy for the whole weekend and today I’m a bit tired and sunburnt, but I would go back to camp in a heartbeat if someone asked me to.

I’ve been involved with Camp Cooinda for about eight years now, and each summer I spend a few weeks with hordes of 12-18 yr olds canoeing and camping on the lakes. This weekend was a bit different to that, with many of Cooinda’s ex-leaders introducing their young children to camp for the first time. For three days, the usual mayhem of fifty teenagers was replaced with an entirely new kind of cheerful chaos, yet at the heart of it, it was still Cooinda and I know that I gained something amazing from being there. Continue reading

Look Local: Volunteering actually is all around

A couple of days ago, we wrote a blog post about voluntinder proposing the development of an app to find volunteering opportunities in your local community.

Sadly, we haven’t yet found someone to make the app happen for us (though Claire’s app developer cousin jokingly said he’d make one, and we’re seriously considering making him follow through). Getting a whole app finished in less than two days may have been a bit optimistic so we’ve been thinking about how to spread the word on local volunteering opportunities in other ways.

The FedUni student leadership website already has a fairly impressive list of volunteer opportunities around the Ballarat area and will soon have a similar list for Gippsland (it’s being put together as we speak), but we know that a lot of students travel long distances to campus so these may not be useful for everybody. For that reason we’ve started to put together a Pinterest account with links to opportunities all around the state and even internationally.

Apart from our resources, here are some other places that you can find volunteering opportunities in your local area:

It’s worth remembering that volunteering is certainly not limited to delivering meals on wheels or helping out at the local scout group (though if you’re interested in doing either of those things that’s fantastic!). Why not help out with a local sports group or use your crafty skills to make quilts or knit trauma teddies for kids in foster care? The possibilities are (almost) endless!

So happy volunteering, and good luck with finding that perfect opportunity!

Voluntinder – swipe right to change the world

When students come to chat to us in our offices or ask about the leadership & volunteering program, one of the first things we ask is the following question:

A bit of a lofty idea, I know, but an incredibly important thing to find out about. Understandably, quite a few people are stumped by this question, but its answer goes to the heart of our program. We ask about it for two reasons:

  1. to find out about you and understand how we can help you fit the leadership program into your probably already quite busy life and discover how we can best support you.
  2. even more importantly, it helps us to find out what sort of volunteering opportunities you may be interested in.

Just like our tastes in friends or partners, a volunteer opportunity that works for one person may not be best for another. This means that we spend a lot of our time flipping through postcards from different organisations discussing them with students who would like to volunteer but aren’t sure where to start. It’s a great way of discussing options, but not all students even know to come and visit us to throw around ideas.

So I’d like to propose a new way of choosing organisations to volunteer with.

Well, it’s not really a new way. More like repurposing (and definitely not plagiarising!) a good idea that someone else had.

Tinder.

Why are we not using it to find volunteer opportunities?

It’s so convenient! People already use it to find the perfect match (or the match for right now) for people in their area. Why aren’t we using great technology like this to make our world a better place?

Imagine it: swipe right to add an opportunity to your pinboard (at this point my app idea’s starting to sound like a mix of tinder and pinterest, but what good idea isn’t stealing from others?!) and swipe left for things that don’t interest you. I picture it as being intelligent enough to start to learn the sorts of things that people are interested in. And all this from the comfort of wherever you happen to be with a wifi connection!Mr Swipe Right #Tinder @Chastity Ek

I mean don’t get me wrong, the volunteer expos we’ve been hosting this week at Mount Helen and Gippsland have been absolutely fantastic opportunities for people to speak face to face with organisations and an app will never be able to replace that one-on-one contact. But we can only hold so many expos. Having that information down in a simple app would make reaching people who are interested in volunteering throughout the year so much easier.

So I’d like to offer a prize for anyone who has the skills to develop this app or who has any other fantastic ideas to make the world a better place. I can’t promise it will be a good prize, but it will be a prize nonetheless. Let us know your thoughts on this or anything else you think would make a difference!

Why volunteers matter in our university community

Happy National Student Volunteer Week!!

This week we, like many other universities, will be celebrating our nsvw-logostudent volunteers and providing opportunities for others to get involved in volunteering within their local community. We’re incredibly proud of the huge impact that FedUni students make to improving campus life and making it a fun and safe space for all members of the university community to enjoy. As well as this, many FedUni students play an integral part of their local communities, volunteering with the CFA, local sporting groups, their kids’ schools, scouts, participating in charity fun runs…

The list is seemingly endless, and wThank you to all that have the heart and take the time to volunteer!e’re constantly surprised and impressed with the different ways that students are choosing to give back.

But why is this so impressive? What is it about volunteering that makes others think highly of you?

Simply put, volunteers create a better world. A world which values giving back over self-interest, which knows that money isn’t the only key to happiness.

For example, imagine our campus without student leaders and volunteers. Without student ambassadors to help spread the word about how great the uni is, there’d be no incoming students. Without PASS leaders, students would have a tougher time keeping up with their difficult subjects. And without volunteers, events like Gippsland campus’ weekly pancake brunch and all of the club & society events wouldn’t be possible.

So here’s to all the student volunteers at the heart of our university community. We would be much poorer for not having you!

Why Volunteer? Building Networks

For National Student Volunteer Week (NSVW) 2014, we’ll be publishing a series of posts answering that perennial question – why should I volunteer?

Today’s blog is all about that intangible but essential activity – Networking. Typically seen as an exercise in corporate career-ladder climbing, networking is often treated with suspicion amongst those with more altruistic objectives but the value of building a network through, or for volunteering is huge.

Every state in Australia has a state-wide Volunteer ‘Hub’ – Volunteering Queensland/Victoria/Tasmania etc. bring together news, opportunities, research and promotional materials for volunteers and volunteer organisations, ensuring the word gets spread as far as possible. Queensland have even gone that step further in building a nationwide network through organising National Student Volunteer Week, which of course we are celebrating this week. Even on a more local level, most towns will have a peak body for volunteering – in Ballarat, United Way run the volunteer role search engine, as well as supporting local organisations with marketing their roles, and running the volunteer managers network (amongst many other things). Through these ‘Hubs’, you as an an individual can also benefit from this extended network – volunteering with one organisation opens doors to many other opportunities when organisations work together.
banner-volunteer-victoria

On a personal level, many of the people you meet whilst volunteering will be invaluable additions to your personal and professional networks. Many volunteer organisations tend to be fairly small-scale, and non-hierarchical – you may be working on a daily basis with senior managers in the organisation. Often, CEOs, CFOs etc of charities have a lot of previous experience in larger, corporate settings – not only can you learn form their expertise, but again, they can open doors to new opportunities, both within volunteering and thinking about your career. The people who work for volunteer organisations by their nature tend to be willing to help other people, and so in your personal life as well your volunteer network can help you get things done. Of course, networking is not all about taking, and so make sure that you give a little as well – if you’re volunteering with someone who may need a hand with something, some information or a key contact that you have – do it!

Vol Expo SMFor NSVW, we’re running a couple of events which can help volunteers build their networks. On Monday, we hosted our annual Volunteer Expo in Ballarat and Gippsland, as well as an online version. Over 40 organisations took part in the ‘physical’ Expos, and several more in the ‘Virtual’ one, representing a huge range of different sectors including sports, politics, welfare and engineering. Students were encouraged to visit at least 6 stalls and find out what they had to offer, so getting a broad representation of what is available. On Wednesday, we have a talk specifically for Visual Arts students about how they can use their artistic powers to help the community, and join local artist networks.

Have you got a personal story of how you improved your network through volunteering? Let us know!

– Luke

What’s the difference between Humans and Vampires? Self-Reflection…

image via gobankingrates.com
image via gobankingrates.com

Let’s be honest, it would suck to be a Vampire (pun intended). You can’t eat garlic, you sleep in a coffin, and going to the beach is a massive no-no. Also, how are you going to do your hair in the morning if you can’t see yourself in a mirror? Not being able to see yourself as others see you is a big issue, whether at work, at Uni, in your life or fighting werewolves.

Which brings me smoothly on to Self-Reflection. I’m going to deal with it in two parts – the first bit is about knowing yourself (Self Awareness), the second about doing something about it (Self-Improvement).

Self-awareness is crucial to success in any field – if you know how you work best, what you’re good at, what you’re not so good at, you can create a work/study/social environment to maximise your strengths and support you in developing your weaknesses. Consider a personality-type questionnaire like Myers Briggs or DISC (free versions are available if you search!), but be careful not to be limited by what it says about you – just because you have a preference for introversion, it doesn’t mean that you ‘are’ an introvert – use this as a tool to see what you could work on.

image via edbean.com
image via edbean.com

Ask other people what they think – honest feedback from colleagues, bosses, families and friends is invaluable – they probably see different things in you than you may realise…Again, challenge yourself to break free of the image other people have of you.

The self-improvement aspect is again all about challenging yourself to be better. It is not the same as self-assessment – it should not be judgemental. It is not just a description of what you have done during a day – it needs to be analytical. It is definitely not what I call ‘social introspection’ – a Facebook status telling everyone how awesome/awful your life is. Effective self-reflection goes in a cycle: (click to enlarge)

FlowChart

The format is unimportant – write it, draw it, video it – whatever works best for you.

The most important bits are also the bits that everyone misses out:

1) Identifying sources of support – whatever the challenge is, you don’t have to do it alone. Approach other people who may have been in/currently are in a similar situation, and ask them how they got on – you can always repay the favour down the line. If it’s course-related, ask your coursemates, teaching staff or support staff. If it’s in your job, your colleagues/supervisors should be able to help. In other areas of your life, friends/families/contacts will be happy to help out – another reason to keep your networks as broad as possible.

2) The follow-up – After you have worked out how to overcome the issue, make sure you try it out as soon as possible – actively seek out tasks and situations which challenge you and approach them in different ways. After a few months, look back at your reflections and see if you’ve made any progress, if not, have another go at coming up with a different solution.

Vampires are stuck in a constant cycle of sucking blood, avoiding sunlight and dodging stakes through the heart – they can never stop being what they are, unless they die.

Don’t let the same be said of you…

Got any top tips for self-reflection? Anything that works particularly well for you? Please share below…
– Luke